This Has to Stop

I had planned to post a cute little post today about AI as a design problem.

But honestly in the wake of the announcement that Nintendo has fired Alison Rapp, I can’t in good conscience publish that piece today.

Nintendo Insider has a quick overview of the situation for those unfamiliar.

After controversy had swirled around the company’s localisation effort with Nintendo 3DS exclusive Fire Emblem Fates, Rapp, who had no involvement with them, unexpectedly found herself become the target of criticism regarding the changes.

That attracted harassment from the notoriously hostile Gamergate campaign, who immediately set out to discredit her in any way that they could. Their most damaging discovery was a thesis that she wrote while at Augsburg College called “Speech We Hate: An Argument for the Cessation of International Pressure on Japan to Strengthen Its Anti-Child Pornography Laws,” which had explored the differences in cultural traditions between Japan and western countries relating to the subject matter.

Gamergate chose to interpret this as Rapp holding views that support child pornography, even if she actually made an argument to introduce stronger laws against child exploitation.

Still, activists hounded her as supporting paedophilia, a relentless campaign that descended into madness, eventually seeing The Wayne Foundation’s Jamie Walton, an organisation who seek to spread awareness of the commercial sex exploitation of children, report her views to Nintendo of America without any comprehension of the situation.

Mounting pressure came to a head this week, surely elevated by prominent articles in the media, and the disappointing conclusion was reached.

This is an obvious case of trolls on the Internet being upset over perceived “censorship”, finding a target that had literally nothing to do with the situation, and harassing her online. And rather than taking a stand to support her, Nintendo threw her to the wolves. Fuck.

Leigh Alexander’s famous “Gamers Are Over” post seems more prescient than ever.

You don’t want to ‘be divisive?’ Who’s being divided, except for people who are okay with an infantilized cultural desert of shitty behavior and people who aren’t? What is there to ‘debate’?

If you haven’t read it since Gamergate, it’s worth a reread.

Alison Rapp did nothing wrong, but for many of us, she became a symbol of how women are treated in the games industry. Today, many women are seeing themselves in Rapp and seeing their companies in Nintendo. Women in the games industry have to worry that their employers will hang them out to dry if the mob ever comes for them. And they recognize that the mob could attack them for arbitrary reasons, for something they had no part in.

The fact is that we, as a community and an industry, need to recognize that witch hunts are now part of the consumer culture we’ve created. We need to recognize that these mobs are drastically more likely to target women and marginalized groups. And when faced with the decision to cave to them or to stand against them, we need to make the right decision.

We need to actively cultivate the consumer culture we want. Caving to a hate mob tells the hate mob that their attacks are valid (they aren’t) and that their presence is welcome (it isn’t). Alexander was absolutely right; the hate mob is not our customer. And by catering to them, we’re feeding them and making games culture more terrible and awful for everyone.

We need to do better.

Today’s decision was another painful message to women that we aren’t welcome. That the whims of screaming children—upset over “censorship” of sexualized teenage girls—are more important to our industry than women’s presence and livelihoods.

Enough. We have the power to stop this. It’s time to say “no.” The hate mob is killing your pool of potential employees and potential customer base.  Stop them.

Tantrums don’t stop when you give in. Neither do mobs.

[Update 3/30: Nintendo has released the following statement on Rapp’s termination:

“Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture. Though Ms. Rapp’s termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related. Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavors.”

Mike Futter over at GameInformer has a good summary of the stories on both sides, as well as this takeaway:

While the stories don’t completely line up, there is one thing of which we can be certain. Nintendo remained silent as Alison Rapp was harassed over the past few months. She took the brunt of attacks for localization decisions made by the company and, as she states, were in opposition to her own opinions in some cases.

What ultimately happened at the end of her employment with Nintendo follows months of the company turning its back on her. Whether you agree with the localization decisions made for Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fire Emblem Fates, or any other game brought over from Japan, remember that these decisions are rarely made by a single person in a vacuum. No one deserves the level of harassment Rapp faced.”]